TIFF 2016: Colossal

colossal-anne-hathaway

The first time we see Gloria (Anne Hathaway) she’s apologizing to her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) for staying out all night. It’s clear she’s a bit of a mess as she  stumbles into the apartment and tries to balance herself against the wall. Tim complains that he only ever gets to see her when she’s hungover. I can only guess that Tim isn’t much for parties, otherwise they might be able to be hungover together. Alas, this is one alcoholic binge too many and Gloria is sent packing – back to her hometown to ostensibly “find herself.”

What she finds is an old friend (Jason Sudeikis) and a limitless supply of booze – he’s the owner of the town’s bar. The stage is set for a alcohol-soaked romance between the two with some challenges and life lessons along the way, until that romantic comedy premise is derailed when a gigantic Godzilla-like monster attacks Seoul. Oops. Let’s just say the monster attacks are connected to Gloria’s homecoming and overshadows the film’s earlier “will-they or won’t they” story line.

Colossal is an unpredictable film. It’s a buffet of different genres – the aforementioned romantic comedy, an addiction drama, tones of a 90s-esque thriller, sci-fi monster movie and a shaggy dog hang-out picture. It may sound like the tone of the film is all over the place, but the central concept – as absurd as it may be – grounds the plot so that all the developments feel organic, if unexpected. It’s an entertaining ride throughout.

But it’s not perfect. The characters are drawn a little thinly, and it would have helped to flesh them out a bit more. It’s not entirely clear what Gloria’s past relationship with Sudeikis was – they were friends, but good friends? Were they only close in elementary before drifting apart in high school and losing touch after? Did they have a “thing” together? It’s all rather hazy, which may be reflective of Gloria’s perception of life (she often doesn’t remember conversations she’s had the night before, or the people she was with). However, some of the climatic moments of the film require understanding who these characters are and why they’re damaged. Lacking defined characters ends up limiting the impact of the twists that come later – and the motivation behind them.

I guarantee Colossal is something that you’ve never seen before. Where else will you hold your breath watching two drunk adults fighting in a schoolyard playground and hope that the people of Seoul will be okay?

Grade: B+

Sidenote: With gender-swapped remakes all the rage right now, I wouldn’t mind seeing Single White Female remade with Jason Sudeikis in the Jennifer Jason Leigh role.

 

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Horrible Bosses

So you love everything about your job except one thing: your boss is a total asshole. Or psycho. Or crazy insane bitch. What’s a mid-level employee to do? Kill your boss. At least, that’s the concept of Horrible Bosses.

Three best friends (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day) have hit a rough patch in their offices. Nick (Bateman) has woken up at dawn, worked weekends, and ditched important family events to secure a promotion from his boss (Kevin Spacey) – who then awards the promotion to himself. Kurt (Sudeikis) finds himself working underneath his late boss’ son (Colin Farrell) – a coked-up, paranoid douchebag who plans on running the company into the ground and living off the profits. And Dale (Day) is recently engaged and facing unwanted sexual advances from his boss (Jennifer Aniston) who will stop at nothing (not even blackmail) to get what she wants.

Horrible Bosses is (thankfully) grounded in some semblance of reality. The boys don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that killing their bosses is the only way out of their predicament. Instead, it begins as a hypothetical situation over beers that none of them are actually serious about. That is, until they realize they can’t quit their jobs (the Recession is still affecting the job market) and their bosses become increasingly more abusive. Killing it is then. The decision is a bit more complex than that (it takes up most of the first act for the trio to decide on murder as a course of action) but it catapults the film into the hilarious set-pieces that follow.

The best comic material of the film comes from the attempts of three ordinary guys to commit a heinous crime. They know that they aren’t qualified to pull off a clean murder without getting caught, so the first thing they do is try to hire a hit-man…by going on Craigslist. Eventually, they run into “Motherfucker” Jones (Jamie Foxx) a “murder consultant” who offers to help them kill their bosses for an exorbitant fee – and who also has a telling back story about how he got his nickname. From there, the laughs don’t stop as the bumbling amateur murderers get closer to carrying out their plan.

Horrible Bosses reminded me of a Three Stooges skit, if the Stooges decided they wanted to go down a darker path and avoid the “poking each other’s eyeballs” gag to invest in duct tape and heavy-duty rope. The palpable chemistry of the leads is what truly makes the movie a winner. The leads are perfectly cast, even if Charlie Day plays the same role from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Jason Bateman from Arrested Development (Sudiekis manages to avoid his 30 Rock persona by not being impossibly sensitive and understanding). It’s a perfect balance between manic (Day) and restrained (Bateman).

There are too many great sequences to talk about – any scene with Motherfucker Jones, the “wet work” scene, the during-the-credits gag reel, etc. Horrible Bosses is well worth the price of admission, and while it doesn’t beat the highs of the 2009 sleeper hit comedy The Hangover, it’s definitely the best comedy in theatres this summer (The Hangover Part II be damned).

Grade: B+

A Trifecta of Film Reviews

It’s been awhile since my last film review (Mesrine, which was written a month ago – 10 years ago on the Internet) so I’ve decided to write three short reviews about three recently released movies – Just Go With It, The Roommate, and Hall Pass. I should’ve just watched The Social Network again.

Just Go With It

Oh, Adam Sandler. Sometimes, you show such potential, and then you make five films like this to dilute any accusations of becoming a “serious” actor.

The basic plot of the film goes like this: Sandler plays a Jewish plastic surgeon who was dumped at the altar (seen in a flashback with an offensively oversized facial feature – guess which) and seduces women by pretending he’s married. One night, he finds the girl of his dreams and he doesn’t use the old wedding band trick on her – meaning it must be true love – but she finds out and thinks that she’s just slept with a married man. Sandler then convinces her he’s getting divorced and she insists on meeting his ex-wife before they go any further. Wait, what? I know this is the central catalyst that sets the plot in motion but it’s entirely unbelievable. Wanting to meet your sort-of-boyfriend/one-night stand’s ex before dating any further? Doesn’t make sense. Looking into your new partner’s sexual history? Believable (and probably would’ve been the better question, based on the earlier Sandler Sexual Conquest Montage).

Anyway, Sandler convinces his assistant Jennifer Aniston (who looks like Jennifer Aniston but everyone talks to her like she’s Greta the Swamp Hag) to pretend to be his ex-wife so that he can totally be with the girl of his dreams (I mean, he’s known her for a day and they slept together, so she must be the one, right?). That one lie spawns a whole set of others, with Sandler then having to pretend he has children, to taking a vacation with his girlfriend (plus fake ex-wife, fake children, and fake ex-wife’s new boyfriend). By this point, I actually started enjoying the film because I realized that you only have to suspend your disbelief if you can believe that the characters onscreen could be real people. Because they’re only cartoon caricatures, the absurdity, stupidity, and unbelievability of Sandler’s situation becomes – dare I say it – entertaining.

C+

Side note: I recently read a biography on Clint Eastwood that said that during his prime his movies could make 20% of Warner Brothers profit per year. This got me to thinking that Adam Sandler must be the Sony Pictures version of Clint Eastwood. Whatever you think of the guy, his movies make money. And that’s the bottom line.

The Roommate

This movie made me furious. First because it was just a tepid PG-13 retread of Single White Female that fails to elicit any scares. Secondly because it doesn’t mention cleanliness.

The almost universal problem anyone has with a roommate (or roommates) is the level of cleanliness. Some people are anal retentive about how clean they want the house to be. Others are mildly indifferent. And then there are the roommates who have barely climbed the primordial ladder and are content to bathe in their own ooze and filth (whilst commenting on how messy the place is). Instead, the titular roommate in this “thriller” is really neat and accommodating. But she has schizoid bi-polar disorder. I know, right? She’s clean – so who cares.

The “evil” roommate is played by Leighton Meester, and the “victimized” roommate is played by Minka Kelly. They look like they could be twins – which would be a cool twist if Meester wanted to take Kelly’s identity, but she just really wants to be like, super best friends with her roomie instead y’know? She’s pretty much the college equivalent of Barbara Hershey’s mother in Black Swan. Creepy, possessive, and a little domineering, but ultimately subdued by just locking your door.

D+

Hall Pass

Goddammit Farrelly Brothers. You make two of the most amazing comedies of the 90s (Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary) and then follow them up with a decade of middling, increasingly less funny pictures.

The movie has a decent concept though, I’ll give it that much. Two married middle-aged guys (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) get a no-questions asked, no-holds-barred week off from marriage. Interesting, right? The movie will probably be a series of zany encounters – they’ll go to a strip club and get a lap dance from a comically obese stripper named Chocolate Thunder, end up in a county jail where they discover that it isn’t true about what they say about dropping the soap, and then return to their wives – having received no “booty” but learning important life lessons instead. At least that’s one way they could have played it.

In another version, the two schlubs go to bars and hit on women and then there’s a montage of them having sloppy make-out sessions with strangers, awful one-night stand sequences (that are always interrupted before the deed can be done), and running away from killer-eyed crazy ex-boyfriends right into the arms of the women they took for granted. In this version, they also learn life lessons and appreciate what they have with their wives.

Instead of just choosing one of these paths and running with it, the Farrelly Brothers decided to mash the two plotlines together into an unfocused pile of crap. There’s subplots within subplots. And not even funny ones at that. The only good (although I suspect unintentional) joke is that everyone in the film, save for Wilson and Sudeikis, are orange. It looks like they literally drowned the entire cast (Cop #1 and all) in fake tanning solution for a week. In the first scene after Wilson has been given his Hall Pass and his wife is at the cottage, her skin changes from a normal shade of pink to dark orange. If you ever wondered what Pam from the Office would look like as an Oompa-Loompa, look no further.

The biggest problem I had with the movie was that it didn’t pick one path and stick with it. It wanted to be the zany, albeit moral, comedy where the two husbands don’t actually sleep with anyone but also the darkly comic version where the husbands do have sex with other people and run into unforeseen consequences (i.e. getting shot at, ruining their marriage). You have to choose one path, because if you choose all of them, you please no one.

When the only memorable joke in the movie is a woman literally projectile-shitting all over a wall, you known the flick’s a stinker.

F